2014 August 18 Monday
Disintegration Of Iraq: Already Or Future Event?

A WaPo opinion piece by Army Col. Joel Rayburn has a puzzling title: The coming disintegration of Iraq. The essay is actually quite good. But I do not understand the use of the future tense.

Let me try out a different phrasing: The Coming American elite acceptance of the disintegration of Iraq. The problem is that until American elite opinion adjusts to reality in Iraq the US will intervene to try to put Iraq back together and thereby lengthen the civil war. It would be far better to only intervene to help protect the weaker ethnic groups (e.g. Christians, Yazidis, Turkomen) so that the new countries could get formed under conditions where those ethnic groups do not get massively raped, enslaved, killed, and generally oppressed.

Rayburn is quite right that dividing up Iraq will force large numbers of people to move into more ethnically pure statelets. But if we can only accept the inevitable outcome we can greatly reduce the amount of death that comes with ethnic cleansing of Shiite and Sunni regions.

Yet another "inclusive" Iraqi cabinet with some American help isn't going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, at least not with today's technology. The American people do not want to pay the price in blood or treasure and rightfully so. If the US military already had its 2035 or perhaps 2045 technology it could use cheap and really advanced drones and robots that can act on behalf of the Baghdad government to put down any attempt to secede from central control. But today the US lacks the tech to cheaply keep Iraq together. Plus, the US let Saddam get killed by the Iraqi government. So the US lacks a "partner for peace" who has the skill set needed to put Iraq back together.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2014 August 18 10:43 PM 

Jim said at August 19, 2014 5:35 AM:

Iraq's basic problem is the same as that of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had tons of ethnic groups - Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians, Albanians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Gypsies, Jews, Hungarians and on and on. But there was one ethnic group that Yugoslavia had none of. It didn't have any Yugoslavs.

AMac said at August 19, 2014 5:53 AM:

Yes, Rayburn wrote an excellent essay -- one of the few such with a broad overview.

Like you, I am puzzled by his preference for the future tense, when he is describing the present and immediate past.

STBX Prime Minister Maliki is the bad guy of the piece, and his reign has been as malign as described. For example, effectively all of the high-ups in the Iraqi military and civilian government must have seen the increasing weaknesses of the Army 2011-June 2014, as it transformed from a wobbly American-mentored force into an empty shell.

The collapse in June was much worse than France experienced in June 1940 -- the French had an effective Army whose doctrine and communications (OODA) were outmatched by a superior force. With hindsight, we can conclude that Iraq's Army was gutted by Maliki and the leadership -- incompetent and corrupt commanders and field officers without loyalty to the institution or the State. The point being that Maliki knew what he was doing; he was acting according to his priorities. E.g. promoting officers on the basis of their personal loyalty and adherence to Dawa's vision of a Shi'ia dominated state. Caudilloism.

Corollary #1 being that Maliki could only have transformed the Iraqi military in this way with the support of senior figures in the government and the military. Those people remain.

Corollary #2 concerns the U.S. Government's role. The U.S.'s largest embassy is in Baghdad. Perhaps the military attache's office was asleep -- blind and incompetent. Having scanned some of the formerly-secret cables released by Bradley Manning, I doubt this. The likelier alternative is that Washington was kept abreast of the developments that culminated in June's disastrous collapse.

And yet, the American elite (political, military, academic, media) seems to have been as astonished as anyone else by June's events.

I suspect that this mystery has multiple answers. Many mid-level staffers in the military and intelligence communities must have opened June's newspapers with dread rather than surprise. At the top levels, dogmatic blindness and indifference must have set the tone. Think Obama, McCain, and the silly people who make the Sunday morning teevee circuit to chat in serious tones with reporters and reporterettes.

I recall with acid fondness a Wall Street Journal editorial blaming Obama for Mosul, because... the Pentagon was delaying the shipment of F-16s to Iraq.

F-16s. Perhaps Iraqi Air Force C-130s could have dropped them atop ISIL's Toyota pickups as they raced down the highway towards Bayji.

Jim said at August 19, 2014 8:30 AM:

The US put Maliki into power and hailed him at one time as a godsend to the country. The US may know that it's foreign policy in Iraq is based on idiotic fantasy but it continues with it. Of course Karzai is as corrupt and ineffectual as Maliki and our policy in Afghanistan is also based on idiotic fantasy but we will just continue with to disaster.

Jim said at August 19, 2014 8:41 AM:

Current US foreign policy in the Middle East seems to consist solely of spasmodic reactions to shifting events. There is no evidence of any coherent long term intelligent startegy.

Dan said at August 20, 2014 1:40 PM:

What you need is rights first and foremost and Democracy secondary. That is why America has done as well as it has for as long as it has. The Constitution is based on the notion that the government has limited powers and people have a bunch of rights.

The problems in Malaki's Iraq are analogous to the problems in America now. The electorally dominant group has trouble treating its enemies fairly and this sows discord and division. When one tiny business in America (Hobby Lobby# doesn't want to be forced to pay for the one thing they find most morally abhorent, when the costs can be trivially absorbed by many other entities and the ruling party demands total prostration OR ELSE, the left bears real resemblance to the Malaki regime. I am not in agreement with Hobby Lobby's particular stance, but I find its would-be opressors to be utterly execrable. It would be so easy to achieve the purported end #intrauterine contraceptives coverage for H.L. employees) some other way if the goal had anything to do with birth control. Rather, it is plain that the objectives are domination and humiliation.

Jim said at August 20, 2014 1:55 PM:

Human beings are highly prone to group conflict in which domination and humilation play a big role. "Can we all get along?". There is not a scintilla of rational evidence from the entire history of humanity to support any answer other than "No.".

WCN said at August 20, 2014 2:00 PM:

We should support the dismemberment of as many Muslim majority nations as possible

Nick said at August 21, 2014 2:11 AM:

@Dan I think you overestimate the role of democracy in America's success. Ethnic homogeneity for several hundred years and the two largest oceans in the world to the east and west have allowed America to prosper, though the last half-century has been disastrous. The governing elites were largely pro-American for those first couple hundred years, not anymore.

Jim said at August 21, 2014 6:02 AM:

Nick - Yes, the America of the future will be nothing at all like the America of the past.

Jim said at August 21, 2014 6:09 AM:

WCN - Of course turning brutal dictatorships like Hussein's Iraq, Ghadaffi's Libya or Assad's Syria into chaos creates ideal areas for terroist organizations to operate from. For example Libya is now an excellent base for terroists much closer to potential targets in Europe than say the mountains of Afghanistan. The degree of stupidity which the US government has shown in the Middle East is simply awesome.

Jim said at August 21, 2014 6:19 AM:

The stupidity of the US government is the best thing that Middle East terroists have going for them.

Dan said at August 21, 2014 7:58 AM:

Nick --

Maybe I wasn't clear. I think democracy is much less central to America's success than the Bill of Rights. We should realize and focus on that. If the military in Egypt is better at protecting rights than the Muslim Brotherhood, we should support them. Bill of rights > democracy, was my point. If we had a view that Bill of Rights > democracy, then the problems with al Malaki would have been obvious long ago and nobody would be so stupidly surprised. In Libya, Qwaddhaffi (at least as he got older and mellowed# was actually decent on rights by middle east standards, and that should have carried a lot of weight with us.

This is the prob with America today. Leftists think a boot to the face forever is fine as long as democracy #presumably because they have a demographic tailwind and expect to win).

Jim said at August 21, 2014 8:12 AM:

Dan - It's not a question of "human rights". It's a matter of a brutal enought son-of-a-bith to keep the lid on.

Jim said at August 21, 2014 8:13 AM:

Dan - It's not a question of "human rights". It's a matter of a brutal enought son-of-a-bitch to keep the lid on.

Jim said at August 21, 2014 8:43 AM:

Nick - Ghadaffi "mellowing out" probably had a lot to do with his final fate. Sort of like Stalin neglecting to kill Beria.

Jim said at August 21, 2014 8:55 AM:

Nick - If you ever get to be an aging dictator my advice to you is - Never "mellow out" just kill the bastards.

Anti Christ said at August 21, 2014 3:44 PM:

Although YouTube censored the execution video of Foley, LiveLeak.com did broadcast it here:


It is VERY important to note that the 9/11 terrorist attack was a trap to draw the US into guerrilla wars in the Middle East, for the purpose of depleting the US both economically, socially and psychologically. In my opinion, the ISIS is emerging precisely because the US decided to disengage the military from the Middle East, to force the US back into more guerrilla wars. After all, the first trap worked incredibly well, and to they are trying to use the same method again.

Thus, whatever the US has to do, must be done with this perspective in mind. Do something different this time. Find a more clever solution that ISIS is not expecting.

Stephen said at August 21, 2014 4:59 PM:

Anti Christ said: In my opinion, the ISIS is emerging precisely because the US decided to disengage the military from the Middle East, to force the US back into more guerrilla wars.


WCN said at August 21, 2014 6:18 PM:

@ Jim

If the US were smart they would partition Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and as many other Muslim majority nations as possible into states that are a more "manageable size". Iraq and Syria should be partitioned into about 5 different nations. Libya into two. Yemen into two or three. And in the long term Saudi Arabia should be divided into four or five nations.

In the short term, it is in our interest if the various Muslim sects continue to fight each other and we should not hope that any side should gain total victory

Jim said at August 22, 2014 5:37 AM:

The creation of chaotic failed states such as Iraq, Libya, and Syria is great for terroists since it gives them a safe base of operations near to potential targets in Europe. Hussein was extremally brutal but he was a secular modernist not a fundamentalist. When he controlled Iraq there were no terroists organizations operating there. Also Hussein was hostile to Iran. If the current regime in Baghdad survives it will be highly beholden to Iran.

Actually if it were possible to resurrect Hussein and return him to power in Iraq that would probably be the best thing for the US.

The Middle East is unstable enough if left to inself. The current US policy of deliberating destabilizing it is bat-shit crazy.

Jim said at August 22, 2014 6:18 AM:

If we had left Hussein in power we wouldn't have to worry about ISIS now. It is beyond unbelievable how fucking dumb the US government is. Replacing John Kerry with a retarded hairy-nosed wombat would be an improvement.

Jim said at August 22, 2014 6:45 AM:

A hairy-nosed wombat as Secretary of State would be a lot less ugly than John Kerry and no doubt a lot smarter.

Jim said at August 22, 2014 6:56 AM:

Kerry's unique combination of ugliness and stupidity is quite remarkable. Biden has a reputation as a dumb cocksucker but at least his face wouldn't cause a blobfish to faint in horror.

Jim said at August 22, 2014 7:10 AM:

When you're uglier than Kim Jong-Un that's sad.

Jim said at August 22, 2014 8:28 AM:

Maybe we can give the Iraqi Army pictures of John Kerry's idiotic and hideous face and they can brandish them before the ISIS fighters and scare them back into Syria.

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